Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO/Are you a worrywart?

Marjorie Spitz RentoComment

Are you one of those folks who walk around without a care in the world, or do you fret over every detail?

What role does “worry” play in your life?

According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by columnist Elizabeth Bernstein, “For some, worrying is a form of problem-solving where you look at challenges in the future and work them out before they happen, which can be constructive…Researchers call it ‘adaptive worrying”

However, you can worry too much, and chronic worry impacts the ability to function.

For example if you are so concerned with sleep that you don’t sleep a wink, worrywart-ness may be your problem (not sleeplessness).

Time focused on the “what if” and sorting through every single thing that can go wrong is tiresome.

Beyond psychological impact, there can be physical manifestations as well. How does worry manifest itself in you?

  • Perhaps a tight jaw, which can result in TMJ or headaches.
  • Maybe acid reflux, which can result in indigestion, heartburn and other digestive issues.
  • Or tense shoulders which can result in muscle aches and impact posture.

But worrying isn’t all bad. It helps our brain solve problems and trains us to deal with similar situations in the future.

In the WSJ article, according to Graham Davey (emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Sussex), “our propensity to worry is a little bit genetic and a lot environmental…and although worry is closely tied to anxiety, it differs in that it is largely cognitive while anxiety has a strong physiological component.”

His research shows that “people who over-worry tend to be hypersensitive to negative events or threats. Before they are consciously aware of a threat, their brain focuses on it.” Wow talk about self-sabotage!

He goes on to say that “then (the person) sorts through all the possible scenarios that could go wrong. This makes them feel bad, which they then take as a subconscious cue to keep worrying because they haven’t found the answer yet. So they repeat the cycle.”

The research does say, however, it is possible to teach yourself not to overly worry by:

  • starting with a reality check-- does the amount of worry fit the situation?
  • rephrase the story, instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario.
  • make a plan on how to deal with the situation.
  • limit the amount of time you allow yourself to worry – give yourself 15 minutes to worry all you want and then stop
  • yell “shred” in your head, and picture your worries going through a paper shredder (or up in smoke)
  • distract yourself with something you enjoy (music, movies, etc.)

If worry impacts you 24-7, keeps you up at night, leads to negativity and causes strife in relationships (hello Debbie Downer, "wah waaah), you may want reset your internal worry-meter.

Where does worry factor into your life, and how can you mitigate it? Especially consider when the issue at hand is out of your control, like the weather:

  • Concerned about having healthy food options in the fridge when a storm approaching? Hit the store early or set up a regular delivery via Fresh Direct, or some other affordable and reputable option.
  • Worried about a young child or elderly loved one falling? Technology solutions galore exist from medical alert systems to room monitors. Get one!
  • Have a challenging project at work? What prompts and support systems can you put in place to make it a slam-dunk? Consult a subject expert, delegate within a team, set up mini milestones.

Whatever your worry, own it, explore where its originating, and address it.

What is one small change you can make today to address the havoc worry may be causing in your life?

I, for one, am going to post this blog entry now, to lessen the possibility I will be late for a dinner tonight. What will you do?

Thoughtfully yours,

Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™